An effective application of biofeedback for interventions in older adults with balance and mobility disorders may be compromised due to co-morbidity.
To evaluate the feasibility and the effectiveness of biofeedback-based training of balance and/or mobility in older adults.
PubMed (1950-2009), EMBASE (1988-2009), Web of Science (1945-2009), the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (1960-2009), CINAHL (1982-2009) and PsycINFO (1840-2009). The search strategy was composed of terms referring to biofeedback, balance or mobility, and older adults. Additional studies were identified by scanning reference lists.
For evaluating effectiveness, 2 reviewers independently screened papers and included controlled studies in older adults (i.e. mean age equal to or greater than 60 years) if they applied biofeedback during repeated practice sessions, and if they used at least one objective outcome measure of a balance or mobility task.
Rating of study quality, with use of the Physiotherapy Evidence Database rating scale (PEDro scale), was performed independently by the 2 reviewers. Indications for (non)effectiveness were identified if 2 or more similar studies reported a (non)significant effect for the same type of outcome. Effect sizes were calculated.
Results and Conclusions
Although most available studies did not systematically evaluate feasibility aspects, reports of high participation rates, low drop-out rates, absence of adverse events and positive training experiences suggest that biofeedback methods can be applied in older adults. Effectiveness was evaluated based on 21 studies, mostly of moderate quality. An indication for effectiveness of visual feedback-based training of balance in (frail) older adults was identified for postural sway, weight-shifting and reaction time in standing, and for the Berg Balance Scale. Indications for added effectiveness of applying biofeedback during training of balance, gait, or sit-to-stand transfers in older patients post-stroke were identified for training-specific aspects. The same applies for auditory feedback-based training of gait in older patients with lower-limb surgery.
Further appropriate studies are needed in different populations of older adults to be able to make definitive statements regarding the (long-term) added effectiveness, particularly on measures of functioning.